WHEELING, W.Va. -- A longtime educator from West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle will spend three years on probation and pay a $6,000 fine for illegally selling weapons to a convicted felon from the back of his vehicle.
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey sentenced 65-year-old William Lawrence on Monday before more than two dozen supporters. Lawrence is the father of Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson.
The Shepherdstown resident was indicted last fall on one count of selling firearms without a license and six counts of selling to convicted felons. He pleaded guilty to one count of selling to a felon in February, and the remaining charges were dropped in exchange.
Lawrence apologized to his daughter, wife, friends and the students he's taught for more than 30 years.
"I am truly, truly sorry for what has happened," he said. "I made a mistake in judgment I will never make again in my life."
To the judge, he added, "I promise you I will redeem myself if given the opportunity."
Prosecutors said Lawrence was cooperative and truthful, and they recommended a sentence at the lower end of the 30 months recommended under federal guidelines. But they said it was more than a single act of bad judgment, noting that Lawrence had sold guns between July, August and September 2012, sometimes from the back of a vehicle in Harpers Ferry.
They said he knew or should have known the buyers were felons, and that supplying them with guns put other people in the way of potential harm.
Bailey noted that Lawrence has no criminal history, served his country in the military and as an educator, and showed "heartfelt regret" for his actions.
"This court sees no basis to incarcerate this defendant," he said.